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Expedition Timeline
Events of 1803

Throughout 1803 (and even earlier in 1802), President Thomas Jefferson and Captain Meriwether Lewis were planning the mission to find an uninterrupted waterway to the Pacific, the famous "Northwest Passage."

18 January: President Thomas Jefferson asks Congress to fund an expedition to find the "Northwest Passage" and establish an American foothold in the Missouri Valley.

March-June: Lewis departs Washington to begin his preparations for the journey. He travels to Harpers Ferry Armory to obtain arms, ammunition, and other basic supplies. Then he proceeds to Lancaster and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Jefferson had arranged for some of America's leading scientific minds to instruct Lewis in botany and natural history, medicine and anatomy, geology and fossils, and navigation by the stars. While in Philadelphia, Lewis purchased additional supplies and arranged for the Army to provide transportation for his nearly four tons of supplies and equipment from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.

June: Lewis returns to Washington to received final instructions from Jefferson. Lewis also receives permission to recruit William Clark as co-captain of the expedition.

July: On the fourth, news arrives of the Louisiana Purchase. The next day Lewis sets off on his epic journey.

July-August: Lewis is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to oversee the construction of the keelboat. With him are seven soldiers from the garrison in Carlisle and three prospective recruits. Lewis departs Pittsburgh on August 31 en route to Louisville, Kentucky.

October: Lewis arrives in Louisville and then on to Clarksville, Indiana Territory, to meet William Clark, who has already selected the first enlisted members of expedition, the so-called "Nine Young Men from Kentucky." Lewis, Clark, and the other members of the party depart Clarksville on the 26th.

November-December: Lewis and Clark travel down the Ohio and up the Mississippi toward St. Louis. En route they stop at Forts Massac and Kaskaskia to recruit personnel and obtain supplies and intelligence information. They establish winter quarters about 18 miles upriver from St. Louis on the Wood River (also known as River Dubois). Camp River Dubois is finished on Christmas Eve, 1803.

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